How to Kill It at Your First Trade Show

by Christine Mortensen on March 14, 2014

businessman fire rocket to up sellingTrade show expenditures account for 39.2 percent of B2B marketing budgets, reflecting recognition of the vital importance of exhibitions as promotional vehicles, according to a 2012 report by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). Skyline Exhibits research released last year found that marketers identified the biggest benefits of trade shows as promoting brand awareness, lead generation and relationship building. Meanwhile, 92 percent of attendees come primarily to see new products, CEIR reported. Together these statistics illustrate why trade shows are one of the most highly leveraged marketing venues you can pursue. If you’re just getting started marketing at exhibitions, it’s worth your while to learn some best practices that can help you kill it at your first trade show.

Research Your Event

EXPO Magazine Executive Editor Michael Hart advises doing research to understand your event’s market and develop your plan. Hart recommends reading industry publications, joining online communities, surveying past attendees, talking to exhibitors, and attending competing events. This can help you understand your market’s interests, as well as identify high-impact networking opportunities with influential attendees.

Rehearse Your Elevator Pitch

For promoting brand awareness, one key is rehearsing a well-crafted elevator pitch: a brief description of your brand so named because it is short enough to be delivered to a new acquaintance within a 30-second elevator ride, or by extension, a visit by your trade show booth. Copywriting expert Bob Bly recommends a simple three-step approach to scripting successful elevator pitches. First, when someone inquires about what you do, ask a question that identifies your target audience and its problem. For instance, “Do you know those ads you see on Facebook?” Second, state what you do: “I help businesses write and design those ads and get them seen by their target audience.” Third, describe the benefit of what you do: “This multiplies their revenue by delivering their sales message directly to targeted Facebook audiences who are predisposed to buy their products.” If you’ll be exhibiting a booth or giving a talk at a trade show, you might adapt this formula to mention these resources providing more information about what you do.

Use Smart Display Design

Skyline New York exhibition marketing expert Judy Fairbanks observes that many exhibitors get frustrated with high costs for display drayage, shipping and storage. She recommends cutting your expenses by selecting displays that will break down into as few crates as possible at the lowest weight. One way to do this is by using light weight and portable banner stands, such as those supplied by, designed to be transported in specialized carrying bags.

Be Prepared to Collect Contact Information

To leverage exhibitions for lead generation, it’s vital to be prepared to collect contact information. John Matera of RedTail Solutions recommends automating this process by setting up a dedicated lead capture page where you can direct trade show attendees. Smartphone applications such as Zoho CRM’s Leads Apps QR code scanner can help streamline this process.

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